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Category Archives: Divorce

Presence Not Presents

Perhaps one of the most stressful things about the holidays is the pressure that the world around us puts on buying gifts. Between the catalogues, TV commercials, billboards, e-mail blasts and Web ads, someone is in your face every thirty seconds offering you 20% off, 50% off, 80% off, buy one get one free, free shipping and every other incentive you can think of to spend your money. And of course it’s all so you can show someone how much you love them. As if money = love.

Let’s get real for a moment shall we?

Don’t feel guilted into buying your kids Christmas. Yes they have wish lists. Yes Christmas morning is a magical moment for them. There’s2014-12-08 21.24.44no question about that. But having been through three or four Christmas’ as a divorced dad I can tell you this. What they’ll remember more than anything are the moments. What they’ll appreciate most, is time together with no arguing, fighting or yelling between adults.
Keep in mind, I’m not saying don’t buy them anything. Just don’t feel like buying them a bunch of stuff because you feel guilty about the divorce is the answer. If you’re like me, you still have to be smart about how much you’re spending. It helps to put boundaries on purchases and to have a plan.

One thing I started doing that helped was I gave myself a budget per kid. What I knew I could afford. Some years it’s been more than others and yes, I typically go over it, but starting with a visual financial guide really helps. I’m fortunate to be able to communicate with my ex regarding the big picture and we establish what the kids are going to get. But even if you’re not that lucky, make a list of what you want to get them and give yourself limits. This will help you avoid all of the extras we typically purchase on a whim when we really have no idea what we want to get them.

But the most valuable things you can give them are laughter, family, fond memories and you. They’re already stressed out about the holidays whether you’re divorced or not. What they need and want most is to know they matter. What they really need is your presence not your presents.

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2014 in Divorce, Talking To Kids, holidays, stress

 

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How Boys & Girls Handle Divorce

Each of us living as divorced parents have seen our children cope with the separation in their own unique ways. It should go without saying that no matter how much love and support and reassurance you offer your children, this isn’t going to be easy for them. But each child is going to react differently and I think it’s important to recognize that fact and do your share of reading on the subject to equip yourself as much as you can to help them through the transition and even years into the divorce.

One thing I’ve read in multiple publications is that boys tend to deal with divorce differently than girls. I have found it interesting that my girls were the first to try and set me up on Match.com while my son worked hard to get my ex and me back together. There are all kinds of theories on this subject, but reading comments from different readers I came upon one that really hit me. He said that as males, we tend to612px-Sapioheterosexuality_Symbol.svg_want to fix things. I thought back to my marriage and a flurry of memories of my wife saying, “I’m not asking you to fix anything I just want to tell you about what happened. You don’t need to act, just listen.” When My ex-wife would come to me with problems, my first inclination was to fix the problem she was sharing with me. So when I read this comment I was like, “well of course!”

Even if a young man knows that he was not at all responsible or to blame for a divorce, he’ll very likely feel some sense of failure in not being able to fix it. To him mommy and daddy’s relationship is broken. And his first tendency may be to want to fix it. If you’re working together as co-parents and generally get along in front of your kids this is going to be even more true since to him, it probably won’t take much to get mommy and daddy back on track.

Another great comment I read dealt with how we as parents handle the divorce ourselves. Are we acting as the victim? Or do we acknowledge and move on as strong, healthy adults? What are our children seeing when they see us deal with our ex or being a single parent? What do they see and hear? I think it’s important to recognize that every sight and sound those little eyes and ears are taking in has an impact. They’re paying very close attention and how they handle the divorce and being a child of divorce may very well depend on how you yourself handle it.

It’s easy to play the victim sometimes. It’s easy to shout out a negative. But is that really what our children need? Or do they need us to acknowledge and move on as strong independent adults? Pay close attention to your children. They will provide you all kinds of clues as to what they need from you. It’s simply up to you to tune in and provide them with a sense of security and knowledge that no matter what, both you and their mom will be there for them 100%.

Would love to hear your take on this subject.

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2014 in Divorce, Talking To Kids

 

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Holiday Stress on Kids

Anyone with kids will tell you that children go through a remarkable metamorphosis around the holidays. Their attention spans go out the window, their ability to listen – gone, their energy grows exponentially, their attention spans go out the win… whoops, already said that one. And underneath it all, sometimes quite well hidden, their stress levels are through the roof! My guess is this can be especially true if their parents are divorced.

Holidays are about families and this time of year is a stark reminder for all of us, our kids included, that things are diff2014-12-02 22.17.48erent. I’m sure conversations with their friends bring added focus to the differences between different households. Traditions between your house and their mom’s will likely shift a bit. There’s trying to figure out travel schedules to visit with different families. Then the travel and visiting with different families, which let’s face it, stresses me out, just imagine the kids. Oh and there’s always worrying how Santa will know which house they’re at. All of it adds up quickly. Then to top it off, we’re often so buried in our own piles of stress that we miss a lot of the clues of what our kids are going through assuming the kids are having fun because, hell, it’s the holidays!

More than once I’ve had to stop myself and recognize the reasons for things like stomach aches that appear out of nowhere, sudden outbursts of anger (even more so than usual), forgetfulness and an inability to sleep. (And I’m talking about the kids here btw.) Sometimes the best thing we can do for our kids is to simplify and just let it all happen. Lighten the calendar load where you can. Try not to pack too much into one day. Let them know the plan ahead of time so they can wrap their heads around it. Focus on the fun and do everything we can to give them our time and attention if for no other reason than to provide them a sense of calm and serenity during what can otherwise be a crazy time of year for both them and us.

The holidays have become a time of turning our worlds completely around. Because of this, we’re all moving at warp speed during these weeks. Sometimes it’s best to put it all in park, relax and share our Christmas wish lists over a cup of cocoa.

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2014 in Divorce, holidays, Talking To Kids

 

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So, Are You Seeing Anyone?

A common question for the divorced dad is, “are you seeing anyone?”

I’ve shied away from the topic of dating for a number of reasons. Probably the biggest is the fact that quite frankly, that’s kind of personal. However it struck me recently as I’d seen other people I know who have been divorced for a couple of years; how easy it seemed for them to just jump into a new life with a new partner and move forward.

Really? How the $&%@ did you do that?

It took me thirty-one years to find my partner. Sure a lot of that was on me. But still. That’s a long time. I was very career focused and had grown accustomed to being single. But when I met my wife I was convinced I’d found my soulmate. Then for it to all blow up in my face the way that it did, I feel a little jaded and even more cynical about relationships. So the thought of integrating another person’s life into myFatGuyCupid-300x298 own again is somewhat intimidating. Perhaps I take it all too seriously, but that feels like a big deal to me. Which is why I’m always amazed when I see other divorced dads married again or in a serious relationship after a year or so of getting divorced. Frankly it blows my mind. Kind of the same way I’m always floored when I hear that a guy has had a couple of affairs. I’m like, seriously? I had a hard enough time finding ONE woman. How the hell are you finding like, nine at the same time?!

To answer the question you’re probably asking, “why yes, I’ve dated some.” And truthfully there have been women I could see myself with. Women who represent many things I didn’t have in my marriage and whose company I very much enjoy. But here’s the thing. When you’ve gotten back into a mode where you make your own meals. Manage the house on your own. Make the bed the way you like. Pick the laundry soap you like. Wear a shirt that is completely hideous and not care. Lie on the couch for no damn good reason without fear of retribution. Manage the kids day to day on your own terms when they’re with you (albeit with some basic coordination with the ex as in my case). And basically do what you want when you want. It can be a challenge to consider the prospect of going back to a system that, in our case, didn’t work.

Listen, after a divorce, getting to a point where you feel strong as an individual and completely self reliant takes a lot of effort and is remarkably empowering. The thought of giving that up again and finding ways to balance it with leaning on someone else can be a struggle for some. That’s true whether you’re a divorced man OR woman. Let’s face it. There are many aspects about being single that are kind of cool. I like being independent. I enjoy being self reliant. I enjoy my time to myself when I can manage to get it. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be awesome to have someone to share it all with and someone to connect with. I would personally love that. But I think it’s reasonable to be somewhat skiddish and over protective of your mental state after what we’ve been through as divorced parents.

So to you guys who have managed to find your way into a new relationship. I applaud you. Would love to hear how you managed to cross that threshold. For those of you who haven’t. Don’t sweat it. Enjoy the positives of calling the shots and being independent. There are many perks. I believe if and when it’s supposed to happen it’ll happen. Until then; when someone asks, “So, are you seeing anyone,” just hold your head up high and proudly say, “Nope. Are you?”

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2014 in dating, Divorce

 

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You’re Not Alone

My father is 91. Whenever I see him, (he lives about 700 miles away), the first thing he says to me is how alone he feels. Admittedly, part of this is his own doing. He avoids crowds due to his inability to hear people well and tends to shy away from social situations. Keep in mind, at one point, he was the President of the New York State Farm Bureau. But big picture, most of his brothers and sisters are gone. He recently lost a son-in-law. And he’s losing his memory and finally acknowledging his age and quite frankly, he’s scared.

This past week, my sister took him to a new doctor. My parents had moved a while ago and he had held on to his old doctor despite the distance until it was becoming obvious to both the doctor and my family that he needed someone closer. And so after a bit of drama he2014-05-25 11.42.45 agreed to get someone closer.

The foundation of this blog has always been to remind us that we’re never the only one on this path. Somewhere out there is someone who is experiencing the same trials and tribulations you are. Somewhere, someone understands what you’re going through. It’s true when your seven. It’s true when you’re seventeen. It’s true when you’re fifty and it’s true when you’re 91. It’s a key element to our peace of mind. To have the knowledge that there is someone who gets it and understands what’s going on in your head. Such was the focal point of my father’s doctor visit.

Even at 91. Even with everything my father has lived through. His accomplishments. His ups and downs. His knowledge of life and what it means to be 91. Despite having family around him every day reminding him that they’re there for him, even he simply needed a stranger to say, “You’re not the only one experiencing this and I want to help.” And from what my mom and sister told me, that’s exactly what this new doctor said. “I understand, and you’re not the first one to go through this.”

I’m told he wept at the end of the visit, which from all accounts lasted nearly two hours. I can only guess, that simply hearing someone tell him, “you’re not alone and I’m here to help” brought a sense of relief to him. That’s not to say that he doesn’t already have people around2014-05-30 17.31.57-1him who love him and are there to help. But sometimes it takes a complete stranger with no history to validate your state of mind.

As divorced dads (and moms), there are times when we feel incredibly vulnerable and alone. We wake up in an abyss of unknowns, convinced our lives are a complete mess. We shy away from inviting people in wondering who would want to be a part of our mess. During those times, knowing there are others just like you, somehow gives you peace of mind and an ability to face it head on with a little more confidence and resilience. It also helps us recognize that our world really isn’t as bad as we tend to make it out to be sometimes. And yes, sometimes it’ll make you weep when the weight of feeling alone is lifted. Hearing about my dad’s experience and having watched him these past few years and having watched my children grow and navigate through their first decade has helped me recognize that in every stage of life, we’re convinced we’re the first to experience the pains we’re living through.

In that vein, this blog has been a source of therapy for me as well these past three years. Each note I receive, every comment made, reminds me that there are others going through the same things I am. And that we’re all doing our best and learning as we go. The reality is, sometimes it simply helps to know, you’re not alone.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2014 in Daily Life, Divorce

 

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